Rideau River near Manotick (Ottawa), Canada.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Ottawa, Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Reuniting with Max in Germany on October 1st.

Friday, April 30, 2021

April Expenses

In case you missed it, this is the second blog post of the day. You can read the first one here...


Regarding our April Expenses...Yeehaw... it's very rare for us to come in at or under budget. I purposely set our base case budget for the month on the low side so that it gives us a goal to strive towards. In the case of April 2021, our budget was $2,300 CAD ($1,875 USD), and we came in at $2.380 CAD ($1,940 USD). 

Not under budget, but close enough. We'll take it! 

Well that was an adventure!

I'm sure that some people think we have adventures almost every day, but really we are just out seeing what there is to see in the world. However sometimes just going out exploring really does become an adventure... even by our standards.

Yesterday was one of those days! I think we used the phrase "holy crap" a few times!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

A few videos for you today...

There are not many actual hiking trails in this area, but there are a lot of trails made by the goats and sheep! And, there are a lot of 4x4 dirt roads that are not suitable for cars, but are suitable for hiking.

Yesterday, we drove up the paved road that goes near the top of the mountain range in behind us. It's a curvy road with lots of switchbacks and pretty much zero traffic. It gains 1,058 meters (3,500 feet) in 14 kms (8.7miles). 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Annunciation Monastery and Skotini Cave near Vanister, Albania

As beautiful as the view is from our front porch, there's lots to see in this area, so we like to get out every day. Especially with such enjoyable weather. Yesterday got up to about 22C (71F)  and they're calling for 24C (75F) today. Perfect.

We drove about 20 kms (12 miles) to the nearby village of Vanister. Up in the hills behind the village is a16th century monastery with gorgeous views of the valley below. It sounded like a good hike, so we headed there first.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Out for a hike on a beautiful day with gorgeous scenery

We heard back from our host here at the villa, and we are allowed to stay an extra three nights, so now we will be leaving here on Saturday May 1st. We had asked for a second full week, but the Orthodox Easter celebrations are next weekend and they have a family gathering here on Sunday.

So we have booked a spot in Permet for four nights and then will move on to Korce for another full week. Things will start to be warming up in the mountains by then, and we really want to get up to the northern part before our time here is up. So we can't be staying too long in any one place!

Monday, April 26, 2021

A beautiful day to visit Gjirokaster Castle

The car fired right up, so it seems that my battery terminal repair fixed the problem. We tried to get an early start, but it was still almost 10am by the time we got on the road. It's only a 10 kms (6 mile) drive, and we got ourselves parked up at the lower section of Gjirokaster. The city was already pretty busy on a Sunday morning with a lot of people out enjoying the beautiful day, after having had three days without sunshine.

We notice that people in Albania tend to do their business and running around in the morning. Afternoons are quite a bit quieter.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

They say these things come in threes

Yesterday was day three of clouds and drizzle, but we needed to go into the small city of Gjirokastër (pop 20,000) to get some supplies. We also looked up a couple of possible places to have lunch while we were in town.

Ruth went to feed the cats, and she tried to unlock the front door, but it wouldn't unlock. So I went and tried, and sure enough it would not. The key would go in and turn a quarter each way, but it would not budge the lock. To the point where I was afraid of bending the key. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Our Oboz hiking boots, and the local electricity

And no, the two don't have anything to do with each other. They are just a couple of things we wanted to talk about today.

First, the electricity.

Albania suffers from an old electrical infrastructure that is mostly based on hydroelectricity. I read that the amount of electricity available fluctuates depending on rainfall, and they often switch power sources from one plant to another throughout the year, and throughout the country on a regular basis.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Not every day you come across a pile of human bones!

Well, the title might give the impression that we had interesting day. And that assumption would indeed be correct!

Starting yesterday, we're in for some cloud and drizzle lasting until Saturday night. And then the long term forecast for all of next week is supposed to be beautiful. So that's something to look forward to.

In the meantime, we don't let a little bit of rain stop us from getting outside. So we set off to explore the local area by foot, without any kind of a plan.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Sometimes, everything just comes together

What a great day we had. It started off good, and just continued to get better. And it ended up fantastic!

Wednesday was moving day, and we had the car packed up and ready to go by the 11:00am check out time. We weren't driving a long distance, a total of about 65 kms (40 miles), but there were a couple of stops we wanted to make along the way and it was almost all on secondary roads so it's pretty slow going.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Nice day trip up Albania's Riviera Coast

When we drove south from Vlorë to Sarandë  a week ago, we knew there were a lot of things to see along the way. In fact if we were in our motorhome it would probably take us two weeks or more to travel that section of coastline! And we simply didn't have time to stop on see everything on that drive, so we planned a day trip back up that way on Tuesday.

And we still didn't see everything that there is to see, so we'll have to stop back in this area when we do actually return with our motorhome. Besides, we keep finding great boondocking spots that would be worth a return visit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Another day in Saranda

Well the skies cleared up a bit and I never did end up getting our tax return done. I'm pretty good about procrastinating on that kind of thing. With regards to taxes, I use the old procrastinator's motto, which is "Why do today what can be put off until tomorrow?" I've got another ten tomorrows left until the April 30th deadline in Canada, and it's not really all that complicated so I have lots of time. As with most years, I'll likely leave it until the last minute! Especially since we have to pay. If we were getting a refund, you can bet I would have filed long ago.

We ended up going out after lunch, just to go for a walk and pick up a few things.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The ruins at the ancient city of Butrint

Butrint is the amazing ancient city ruins site that you have probably never heard of. We are the first to admit that we had never heard of it either, until we started researching what we were going to do with our time here in Albania. Butrint is located in southern Albania near the border of Greece, and across from the Greek island of Corfu.

The original settlement of a Greek colony dates back to approximately 800 BC. Then in 44 AD, Julius Caesar himself visited Butrint and by 48 AD had declared Butrint a Roman colonial city.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

More exploring around Saranda, Albania

It was yet another dull grey day on Saturday, but with no wind to speak of, and a pleasant high of about 18C (65F). But it never did rain, at least not until late evening and by that point it didn't matter.

We set off towards the Greek border with intention of eventually making our way to the Butrint National Park  and the ancient city of Butrint which is a Unesco World Heritage site.

But when we got there, we didn't go in!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Good news, bad news, and a dull grey day in Saranda, Albania

Well, lets get the bad news out of the way first. 

The entire province of Ontario just extended a four week stay at home order to six weeks, and instituted border controls between the provinces. This will last until May 20th, but it should not surprise anyone if it's extended. So to remove any doubt, the estate auction at Ruth's father's house originally planned for May 30th has been rescheduled to August 21st. 

So, we now have no real reason to come back to Canada until August and have put off any intention of doing so until then. Hopefully some sort of normalcy will have returned to Ontario by August, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Well that was stupid!

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day here in Saranda, Albania, but still a bit cool with a forecast high of 17C (63F). Not quite shorts and t-shirt weather, but it's getting close!

Our first day in town, we like to walk around and get to know the city. So we set off mid morning to see what there is to see.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Himara Castle and the Albanian Riviera

The coast south of the Llogara Pass to the Greek border is known as the Albanian Riviera. It's not very well known outside of Albania, but we think that's starting to change. There's a lot of new construction going on at some of the smaller beach towns along the way, and some new communities are being purposely built.

And no wonder. The scenery is spectacular, and the water is clear and a beautiful shade of blue.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

One month in Albania

Can you believe that we have now been in Albania for a full month? We arrived on March 15th in the capital city of Tirana. We're allowed to stay in Albania for three months, so with one month down already, three months might not be enough! That's okay... we definitely plan on returning with our new motorhome at some point in time.

We've been trying to spend a week at a time at each place we stay. That normally gives us enough time to explore the area with day trips, and when you book a weekly rental through Airbnb you normally get a discount of some kind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Wow, what a drive!

I had been really looking forward to yesterday's road trip! My research said that highway SH8 in southwestern Albania is one of the world's great scenic coastal drives, and sure enough, it didn't disappoint.

Our next destination is Sarandë, and we head there tomorrow (Wednesday). And we have to take the SH8 to get there. But there are quite a few things to see along the way, so I figured we would do a day trip to around the half way point, and then come back. Then the actual drive itself tomorrow. Then another day trip from Sarandë will take us back the other way for some more exploring. So it's actually going to take three trips on this beautiful highway to see all the things we want to see!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Good news out of Albania yesterday

Yesterday was Sunday, and we had a nice relaxing day.

You could sure tell it was a Sunday in our area. Quite a few more people were out enjoying the patio restaurants and walking and cycling on the various paths that line the waterfront. Traffic was also bumper to bumper at times on the road in front. I can't imagine what it would be like during the summer season.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Kaninë Castle and a walk on the waterfront

Overlooking the city of Vlorë is the remains of Kaninë Castle. While the city is at sea level, the castle is in the mountains just behind the city at an altitude of 380 meters (1,250').

We had thought about walking up there from our apartment. It's only 6 kms (3.7 miles) one way. But it looked like there might be some hiking to do once we got up there, so we decided to drive.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

We are always on the lookout for a great free campsite!

We don't mind traveling the way we are. Renting a car and staying in various Airbnb accommodation works okay for us. But we would rather be in a motorhome! And so we are always in the "motorhome" frame of mind even when we aren't traveling in one!

And because of that, we're always on the lookout for great free campsites. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

A walk around downtown Vlorë, Albania

Beautiful sunny day yesterday here in Vlorë, Albania, but a bit chilly with a high of only 14C (57F). Still, if you were in the sun it was quite pleasant. A warming trend is in the forecast though, with the sunshine maintaining a presence. We'll take it!

Yesterday, our first day in Vlorë, we went for a walk into the downtown section. There is a grocery chain here in Albania called Conad, and they do some of their own store brand gluten free products, including bread. But not all Conad stores stock all the products, so we wanted to see what selection they had at the Conad store here.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Moving day. We are now at the beach city of Vlorë, Albania

We had to be out of our cottage in Berat by 10:00am, and it was exactly 10:00am when we drove the car out of the parking garage.

It was the first rainy, overcast day we've had for a while, although the rain was mostly over by the time we started driving. It's not a long distance from Berat to Vlorë... only about 87 kms (54 miles), but a lot of it was on a slow going road that went through several villages so it took about an hour and forty five minutes. And we weren't in a rush anyhow... our new apartment had a check in time of 1:00pm.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Finally finished at the dentist, and today is moving day!

We've been here in Berat for two weeks now, and we've really enjoyed our stay. In fact, we could easily stay longer! But, we have decided to move on. We are likely to return with our new motorhome one day, and there are still some things we didn't see, so we have a reason to come back.

Yesterday, I had my 4th and final dentist appointment! The job is complete now, and everything seems fine. And how much did it cost?

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Great day exploring in and around Albania's Osum Canyon

We were back to beautiful blue sky weather yesterday. A great day to return to the Osum Canyon so that we could see some of the views from above. There were a few other things we wanted to see as well. It was lots of fun doing our river rafting trip yesterday, but it didn't give us the opportunity to stop and take photos along the way.

It's not that far from Berat to the start of the canyon at the town of Çorovoda... only about 50 kms (30 miles). But it's a twisty curvy road that goes through several villages, so it takes about an hour and a half.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Fantastic day river rafting in the spectacular Osum Canyon

We had seen pictures of Albania's Osum Canyon online, and it looked really cool. There are several viewpoints along the road, and we were looking forward to heading down there for day trip. There are also a few other things in the area we were also wanting to see.

Then we read that the only way to see the best parts of the canyon is river rafting! Coincidentally, April and May are the best time of year to do the river rafting in Albania, so we looked into it a little further.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Dentist update, and a walk around Berat

So, I went to my third dental appointment yesterday at noon. I was probably only in the chair for a half an hour or so. He was hoping to be able to finish the job yesterday, but one of the products he used has to set for a minimum of 24 hours, so I now have a fourth appointment, this final one is for Tuesday at noon.

I still can't believe the whole thing is only costing 5,000 lek. ($60 CAD, $48 USD, €40). He has a price list up on the wall, and of course it's all in Albanian, but the cheapest item on the list is 500 lek... 1/10th of what I am paying for my procedure.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Our travel medical insurance and other things

We had a time change here in Albania a week ago, and for some reason we just haven't been able to adjust. We're normally up between 6:30am and 7:00am every morning, but it was almost 8:00am when we got up Friday morning. Not sure what's going on... might have to start setting the alarm!

I wanted to tell you about our new travel medical insurance. 

For many years, we were self insured. In other words, if we needed to see a doctor, we would have to pay out of pocket. I know, most of you would be horrified. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Unfortunately, we didn't get too far!

In case you missed yesterday's late in the day post, you can read it here...

https://www.travelwithkevinandruth.com/2021/04/dentist-update-and-berat-ethnographic.html

Thursday was another beautiful day, so we hopped in the car and did a short trip up into the mountains. Unfortunately, we didn't get too far!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Dentist update, and the Berat Ethnographic Museum

We published our March expense report earlier today. If you want to have a look, you can view it here... March Expense Report

You may have noticed that there was no expense for the visit to the dentist that I mentioned the other day. Well that's because it hasn't cost us anything ...yet! However, it's an interesting story...

March Expenses

After three very expensive months in a row, March's total doesn't seem that bad. It was still $3,665 CAD ($2,910 USD), which is higher than we'd like, but considering we started the month in Lushoto, Tanzania, and ended it in Berat, Albania we actually did pretty good.

And almost $1,700 was related to travel itself, so just under $2,000 for everything else. A little over budget, but not bad and you'll see why when you read the details below...

The Traveller’s 3-Step Guide To Keeping Busy On Any Adventure

So you’ve planned your next big trip. You’ve put together a jam-packed schedule filled with adventure and excitement, new sights to see and dazzling detours to explore, so staying busy should be easy, right? 

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

They say there’s never a dull moment, and though travel is an experience like no other, between those once-in-a-lifetime highlights you’ll remember for the rest of your life, you may occasionally find yourself faced with a little unexpected downtime on the road.